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Lending Physicians a (Robotic) Hand

Robots are changing surgical care.


When a potentially cancerous area is observed during imaging, a biopsy is used to test for the presence of cancer or other abnormal conditions. If the biopsy sample is taken from the wrong place, the test result may come up negative though the patient actually has a health issue.

Ideally, healthcare providers would use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to zero in on where the biopsy sample should be taken. MRI is an imaging modality that gives a precise picture of the area on the body without side-effects or radiation, but unfortunately it’s expensive and time-consuming.

The good news is that Siemens and KUKA Robotics are working on a solution to help reduce the need for MRIs in determining the right sample location for biopsies. The companies are collaborating with European universities to develop a new surgical robot arm that will be equipped with MRI and ultrasound technologies.

The MRI and Ultrasound Robotic Assisted Biopsy (MURAB) project aims to improve biopsy precision by combining the best of both worlds: MRI scanning and more cost-effective ultrasound and pressure sensors. The robotic arm could conceivably perform the scan in one-fourth of the time of a traditional MRI.

If the robotic arm is successful, it may bring the precision of MRI to other diseases besides cancer (where the technology may have been cost-prohibitive before), as imaging will be faster and more affordable.


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